Baked Beans

While technically not vegetarian as they are flavored with salt pork, these beans are still a cheap and plentiful meal. It makes a lot of beans. I am pretty lenient about the vegetarian part as my mom used things like ham bones to flavor soups. To be 100% vegetarian it is possible to substitute olive oil and onions and something like liquid smoke or smoked paprika for taste in the place of salt pork. The goal is to get a depth of flavor and a little enrichment that the salt pork provides. Marifax beans are a local Maine bean beloved by Mainers for their texture after spending all day in the oven. Navy beans, Jacob’s Cattle beans or soldier beans are more commonly available substitutes.

Ingredients

2 lbs. Marifax or Navy beans

1 large onion

1/3 cup molasses

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1 Tbsp. salt

1 big, fatty piece of salt pork, about 3-4 oz.

Soak beans in water overnight in 2x water to cover the beans. Drain and rinse the beans. Place beans in a pressure cooker and add new water to cover beans by at least 1 1/2 inches. Peel the onion and cut it with four long cuts horizontally and vertically like you were chopping the onion but do NOT cut all the way through. Drop the whole onion into the beans. Add the remaining ingredients to the beans. Seal pressure cooker and put on high heat until it starts to hiss. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 40 minutes at a gentle hiss.

Remove cooker from heat and run cold water over it so it opens easily. Pour off the excess liquid into a bowl and reserve. Pour the beans into several baking pans. I prefer 9*13 in. baking pans so the beans are only 1 – 1 1/2 in. deep. This gives them a greater depth of flavor when baking than a large pot or dutch oven. Spread beans evenly and pour in reserved liquid to barely cover the beans. Put into preheated 350 degree oven for 4 or more hours. Check beans every hour to add more liquid if necessary. The beans should have a little liquid so they don’t dry out, but you don’t want them liquidy or soupy in the end. The liquid should reduce into a more gravy-like sauce. The top of the beans should be dark and crusty with the evaporated liquid.¬† Remove the salt pork. Serve with pickled beets and Boston brown bread or baking powder biscuits.

Leftover beans can be frozen.

Serves 8-10

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